This question was posted to my comments and (with the questioner’s permission) I’m posting it here and asking for your answers.
As you know, if you read this blog, I’ve written about this issue so many times, but I’d really appreciate other people’s solutions.
We know it’s unequal, we know we are the 22% (seen/broadcast/written about – Vida’s literary stats here, theatre IS as bad) despite being 50% (NOT A MINORITY), we want change and we want ways of making that change NOW.
So yes, do suggest your favourite monologues that aren’t for semi-naked women.
I have, for example, already suggested my Mrs, Shelley Silas’s Mercy Fine, for powerful roles for women.
But the question is much bigger than already-written work, it is, like the brilliant Equal Writes, about what else can we do? What can we do to create change?
How do we make the sea-change?
If libraries and drama schools and publishers aren’t sharing brilliant work for women actors, how can we encourage them to do so?
How does a young woman actor, still in training, make the sea-change?
We’ll all look forward to your answers.
Thank you.

here’s the question …

Hello Stella,
I tweeted you earlier today … here is my question from Bristol Women’s Literature Festival:
I wanted to raise the subject of women’s writing in theatre.
I am an actor, I am currently training and will soon be exposed to the industry, and I spend a lot of my time searching for monologues from modern plays, to produce at auditions and workshops.
I am getting tired of pulling out plays where the only female characters are prostitutes, victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence, use foul language, talk about shocking and graphic encounters, or who just talk about their vaginas – characters who confront the audience with the content rather than the quality of the acting. If I find a female role unlike this, I am so often too young to play it. I am 20 years old.
What I find most frustrating is finding that these roles are written by women. This is not, however, my point. My point is, that these female playwrights who write roles for women, about “women’s issues”, seem to be the only female playwrights who are getting attention from the libraries, online and printed reviewers, drama schools, large theatres. There is undoubtedly a wealth of female writers who are writing plays that don’t concern the things I listed above – but how on earth do I find them?
I find it incredibly hard to find well-written monologues by women (and by extension, plays and dramas) that aren’t like this, with the resources that I have – internet, libraries, recommendations from other female actors. It’s a real concern of mine that the relationship between my personality and interests – namely feminism and the arts – and the roles that I am going to play are linked, by coincidence, but seemingly by choice. While I support women’s writing in every corner and from a content point of view would have no qualms about playing such roles as I have been describing, it frustrates me to think that I could be presenting a political point of view in my work that many people in the industry would have trouble separating from my personality. This is not how I want to go about my career as a female actor. In short, I don’t think I’d get diverse work, because word of mouth would get in the way.
To put it another way, I have asked this question to many of the girls on my course: if on graduating from training, for your first ever professional job you were offered a Bond girl role in the next movie, would you take it? The answer I continually receive is “You would not turn that down!”
Why not? It gives you huge exposure to the industry, but at what price? How do you ever shake that sexualised, visualised role off your shoulders and show the world that you are actually an actor? That’s not what I have invested in.
I haven’t really formulated a question, not in two whole days! In truth I just wanted to raise the issue and hear some opinions on the matter…
Do you think there is a danger for inexperienced female actors such as me?
Thanks for your time,
Rosie Nicholls

(and thank you Rosie, for the question, and for saying I can use your name. Putting our NAMES to our pleas for change is certainly a step forward.)